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To inborn talents and a clever child's natural aptitude in imitating her elders, three years of experience have added, in the case of Cinemactress Temple, the technique of a seasoned trouper. In Captain January she had to come down a 45-ft. lighthouse stairway while a camera crane moved beside her catching a line at each turn of the stairs. The difficulty was to time the lines exactly to the turns and simultaneously to a dance step with which she was punctuating her words. Shirley did not miss once.
Her work entails no effort. She plays at acting as other small girls play at dolls. Her training began so long ago that she now absorbs instruction almost subconsciously. While her director explains how he wants a scene played, Shirley looks at her feet, apparently thinking of more important matters. When the take starts, she not only knows her own function but frequently that of the other actors. Camerawise, she knows when she has made a mistake and will hold up her hand to stop the take. When a scene is made in which she has to cry, her mother takes her off the set and talks to her sternly for a few minutes. When they return, Shirley cries without effort. She is not sensitive when criticized. "You can do lots better than that, Shirley," said Director David Butler after a scene in Captain January. Shirley Temple winked as she has seen older actresses do. Said she: "There was a little faking in it."
Doll & Tears. In one morning, Shirley Temple's crony and hero, Tap Dancer Bill Robinson, who was in The Little Colonel and The Littlest Rebel, taught her a soft-shoe number, a waltz clog and three tap routines. She learned them without looking at him, by listening to his feet. She appreciates the show-business slogan, "The show must go on" so thoroughly that it serves to repress her reactions to the bumps &; bangs sustained in acting. In Captain January she fell over a lamp and hurt her leg. On another occasion she slammed a door on her hand. Neither accident made her cry. She has, however, a normal small girl's maternal instinct. When she picked up her favorite doll and the doll's arm came off in her hand, she burst into a fit of hysterical sobs. It took half an hour to calm her.
The neat, premature perfection of her character appears to extend in all directions. Her teeth fall out on schedule, one by one, and are replaced for working hours by temporary stopgaps. She wears one of these in Captain January. She is expert at such games as checkers, pachisi, casino and "squares"connecting dots on a piece of paper with straight lines to form boxes. She recently beat Oscar Olsen, a member of the Swedish Senate, at squares twice in succession. She has a doll from every country in the world, each dressed in native costume. On the Fox lot she keeps rabbits and a flock of bantam chickens. The chickens operate with punctuality. Each night Shirley takes home an egg to eat for breakfast. In addition to satisfying constant requests for her own autograph, she collects those of other celebrities. Her contacts have enabled her to assemble one of the best collections in the world.